Power Rankings: Hawks take top spot
Monday, Jan. 5
We can admit it.
ESPN.com's NBA Power Rankings committee (of one) might well be guilty of getting caught up in Hawks Hoopla.
The Golden State Warriors had a strong case on this Rankings Monday to reclaim the top spot in our weekly power poll, thanks to the Warriors' ongoing presence in the top five of both the league's offensive and defensive efficiency charts and a league-best nightly average point margin of plus-10.2. Even without injured Andrew Bogut for the past 11 games, Golden State really catches the eye with its continued presence at No. 1 in DE.
Yet we simply couldn't resist the Hawks when it came to pinpointing a new No. 1 in the wake of Chicago's recent home loss to a Brooklyn squad not known for beating upper-echelon teams. No team in the East has a better record against the West (8-2) or a better record against teams at .500 and up (10-5) than Atlanta. The Hawks are likewise a glittering 18-2 since Thanksgiving and essentially inched past the Warriors for the most coveted perch on our list by going into Portland on Saturday night and beating our No. 4 team on the road ... on the second night of a back-to-back.
Playing out of Atlanta, St. Louis or Milwaukee, this club has never won more than 57 games in a season. Relying on the San Antonio principles instilled in coach Mike Budenholzer over nearly two decades at Gregg Popovich's elbow, these Hawks are on pace to win 62 games with their drive-and-kick, spread-the-wealth offense.
You'll find the Hawks firmly entrenched in the top 10 of offensive and defensive efficiency, which are generally strong indicators of a team's playoff worthiness. You also have to wonder whether potential buyers on the market for the NBA's only franchise currently for sale will start to line up, given that Budenholzer clearly has a good thing going with the group almost universally known now as Spurs East.
We'll delve further into this week's ladder on Stein Line Live. You can also comment below on our 1-30 order, which as always was assembled with the usual helpful dishings we get from ESPN Stats & Information and the Elias Sports Bureau.